Trust Exercises with Your Horse

Trust is an important part of any relationship. It is what we need to have an effective partnership with our horses and is a good foundation for any relationship. Some people subscribe to the “trust is earned” mantra but I tend to trust from the start, especially with my horses. I build trust with my horses through trust exercises.

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Setting Expectations

Every horse is perfect. Every client is capable. As we return to lessons and our barns fill up with clients and volunteers and our horses take on a workload again, it is important to have grace for everyone.

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Distance Games

What You Need:
Small cones
Poles
Large cones or barrels

With the state of the world, I wanted to come up with a couple ideas to incorporate “social distancing” into our riding lessons. I am offering a few lighthearted ideas here, but feel free to take these on and make them your own. Adjust to each rider’s skill level as needed.

  1. Six Feet Apart: Here is a good way to socially distance volunteers if riders are balanced enough to not need hands-on contact. Ask sidewalkers to stand around the arena and have riders ride toward the volunteer and stop six feet away. At that distance, have riders complete a task, like throwing/catching a ball or do a scavenger hunt -style ride and volunteers give out clues to the next location. It will be helpful to have a marker for six feet – a pole or cone should be enough.
  2. Lava/Alligator Water: Another fun game to talk about distance. Set up barrels and tell riders they cannot ride off the set path because there is lava! Provide a clear path, six feet wide, that the rider needs to stay on to get to the barrel safely. Lining a path with poles or cones provide a good visual marker. Make the path as straight or curvy as your riders can handle.
  3. Pole work: One of my favorite activities to add in lessons are poles and cavaletti. I have done entire sessions (multiple weeks of lessons) on pole work. Set up poles that range from 3-12 feet apart (base this on your horse’s stride) and discuss the spacing of poles in relation to the spacing of people. Ask clients to think about “horse lengths” when out in public.
  4. Dress Up: Have riders pick up different objects around the arena to “dress” their horse. Clothespins with ribbons, hats with long straps, boas, or whatever else you have on hand. Make it fun and have objects for the rider too, including face masks, bandanas, or neck scarfs.

These are all small ideas to make the “new normal” feel a little more accessible. If you want therapeutic riding and your programs to be an escape from these norms then continue with your regular lessons! If you want to help clients adjust to the current times, these are some fun ideas to make it seem less scary. As always, these are just my thoughts and opinions so please use your best judgment in your own situation.

How have lessons changed for you with COVID-19? Let me know in the comments below!

Leave It at the Door

It is an exciting (and scary) time. Some therapeutic riding centers are re-opening while others continue to find ways to offer services virtually and stay connected online. My current center is fortunate to be able to get back to lessons, but we are back with new restrictions and safety regulations to keep our clients, volunteers, and staff healthy. It has been difficult to stay motivated and make plans with the world on edge.

However, there have been a few silver linings! One is the health and happiness of our horses. Our horses have gotten regular exercise with balanced, experienced riders. They have less people touching them and their ground manners have vastly improved. Our staff has discussed how to keep our horses happy as the activity at the barn picks up.

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Mail A Letter

What You Need:
Letters
Mailbox

I love games that have a real world takeaway. This is a fun, easy game to play for any rider. As always, scale the game appropriately for the rider’s skill level.

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